LILONGWE-(Maravipost)-The country’s social monitoring body Centre for Social Concern (CFSC) on Friday asked the Malawi government to take full charge of Maize market in a bid to sure the nation’s food security.

This will among others empower the country-state owned grain marketer ADMARC with timely funds for procuring farm inputs and produces per its mandate.

The centre suggests that ADMARC should carry social obligation to the people of Malawi by buying the maize at an attractive price and sell it again at a reasonable rates during lean period.

How the social monitoring body is still worried with politicizing of the corporation which has paralyzed its operation in serving the public better.

Addressing the news conference, CFSC Executive Director Fr. Jose Kuppens suggested that maize should be a protected crop as it remains the country’s staple food.

Fr. Kuppens worried with inconsistency on maize market measure including the export ban arguing that its not serving the nation better.

Below is the full statement CFSC presented to the media, titled; “THE ROLE OF THE MARKET IN DETERMINING FOOD SECURITY IN MALAWI A MID-CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS”

Market trends and Maize availability

The country is coming from a year characterised with a bumper harvest of maize and unreasonably very low prices of maize, maize export bans and relinquishment. The prices were beyond any business sense for producers especially small holder farmers who are dominating the agriculture sector. This in itself creates a hostile environment for government efforts to promote agribusiness in the country. It signals a retrogressive approach to government agricultural efforts.

In a bid to move from a food deficiency country to a producing and exporting nation according to late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s African Dream (2010), Malawi is fast sliding back into a market system that does not promote the welfare of those who are at the heart of production, let alone decent farm gate prices. At 53 years of independence Malawi’s food security situation continues to suffer a number of challenges both natural and man-made. Amongst the man made the most significant one is incomplete or partial market regulation.

On the 17th August 2017 the Centre for Social Concern called for a press conference where a statement was read under the theme “The current maize prices: A robbery on the farmers and hence to the economy” One of the notable arguments in the previous statement was the price ranges (MK35-MK50/Kg) which were being offered to farmers, were promoting the already existing culture of our farmers becoming net buyers as opposed to being net producers. The statement further pointed out that in 3-4 months the prices of maize will start increasing. The maize prices projections by the centre have turned out to be very true five months down the line from the 17th August 2017.

Our fellow Malawians the current maize prices across the country in the local markets show the ranges between MK4500—MK8000 per 50Kg bag based on the spot check done by the CfSC. This entails an average price of MK6590.00 at regional level and National level. Refer to the figure 1 below which shows the maize price (MK) for each market across the country as of Wednesday the fourteenth day of February2017.

Figure 1: Spot check on the current price of maize

What does these price volatilities entail in-terms of price Maize trends on some of the selected districts?
The price of maize from January to December 2017 averaged MK 7331.87 while from January to February 2018 the average price is MK6548. This poses a threat to maize prices increasing to at most MK 7331.87 or beyond if not the market is not well regulated

The factors contributing to the steady increasing of the maize prices is speculation amid climate change effects (dry spells, army worms and floods) lifting of the ban is also contributing to the increase no wonder the ban again.According to sources from ministry of Agriculture, it is projected a minimum number of 850,000 households without food affecting about 234 000 hectares as of end of January 2017
The dramatic approach of handling output markets especially maize the staple crop is intotality a threat to sustain self-food sufficiency at national and household level.

Statistically the majority of people in the rural parts of Malawi are smallholder farmers whose source of income comes from agricultural activities and any manipulation of the market system grossly violates their right to affordable means of production.Again, the poor market system not only threatens food security but undermines the concept of food sovereignty (as presented by Campaign to a World Food Summit in 1996) or the right to food which is a more holistic and bottom-up approach. It is a more human and citizen centred approach since it takes the point of view of small producers and guarantees their right to food. It has the advantage of giving new impetus for political changes towards greater justice around food issues.

Our demand

a)Always taking a pro-poor stance, we call on government to empower ADMARC by timely allocating more funds, which should coincide with harvest time to allow the grain marketer to purchase the required number of tonnage to feed the nation at reasonable competitive regional prices. Such prices will in turn empower and allow small producers to purchase farm inputs required for new season. It is our view that the mid-year review should prioritize monitoring and re-stocking Admarc with different types of crops in most affected rural areas where the majority lived.

b)Our planning horizon as a country is short sighted. Planning horizon for maize stock to feed the country should be more than a year. That is why we can have export bans are effected any how any time at the mercy of our leaders. LET THE GRAIN RESERVES SERVE THEIR PURPOSE!!!!! Perhaps a 3-5 year plan maize stock before opening gates for export.

c)While markets are at the mercy of various forces, government should make a deliberate move to prioritize the basic needs of subsistence farmers by not only announcing the minimum prices but also making sure they are enforced.

d)It is our view that Admarc has been heavily politicized in recent times making it to bow to political pressure. The responsibility for attaining the common good, besides falling to individual persons, belongs also to the state, since the common good is the reason why the political authority exists.

e)Integrate the climate change effects in the planning. Food security Households’ welfare in Malawi remains vulnerable to natural shocks such as drought, which lead to food price inflation. As such Drought resistant crops such as sweet potatoes, Cassava, sorghum, millets should heavily be promoted in the country since climate change effects are the order of the day in the country. Promotion of such crops should not be responsive interventions to climate change effects but rather integrated into yearly plans.

f) The Maize market should be protected and promote legumes and other crops for export which will fetch more income(which makes more business sense according to gross margins) for the country and business community unlike maize.

Conclusion

Integrate climate change effects in our yearly plans in the agricultural sector while making sure that the maize market is highly regulated to protect the farmers and ensure that food security is sustained despite unforeseen circumstances. This demands a government that puts people’s needs at heart.

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